Rec’s and Reviews: “The Color of Us”

Image source:

Image source:

“Brown is brown, right?” asks Lena. Lena’s mother is an artist, and together they discover the beauty in all the skin tones of their friends and family through paint colors and descriptive words.

This popular book by Karen Katz helps children celebrate different skin colors through wonderful illustrations and a touching story. It falls short of truly encouraging diversity and understanding by falling back on tired stereotypes.

“The Color of Us” is a good introductory read for ages 3-6, but we recommend supplementation with other books that dig deeper.

Options include:

  1. “One Green Apple” by Eve Bunting, the story of a Muslim immigrant who goes on a field trip with her class
  2. “Round is a Mooncake” by Roseanne Thong, which follows a Chinese-American girl as she discovers culture through shapes
  3. “The Sneetches and Other Stories” by Dr. Seuss, a classic story that teaches about tolerance
  4. “Two Mrs. Gibsons” by Toyomi Igus, about a girl with a Japanese mother and an African-American grandmother
  5. “Ramadan Moon” by Na’ima Robert, which helps explain the wonder of Ramadan to people from all cultures
  6. “The Sandwich Swap” by Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan and Kelly DiPucchio, a story of two friends who are unfamiliar with foods from each other’s cultures
  7. “I Have a Dream” by Dr. Martin Luther King, a strong and clear introduction to discussions about the civil rights movement
(written with contributions from Holly Burns, Preschool Programs Coordinator)

CE Highlight: Preschool Palooza 2015

PP-4cThis month’s CE Highlight is Preschool Palooza, the fun and educational event for children 2-6 and their parents. Children will be able to enjoy activities like face painting and Music-n-Motion while their grown-ups gather information about early childhood opportunities in the WDMCS district.

All activities and snacks are free, so kids can come enjoy inflatables, exploring City of West Des Moines vehicles, and more! Parents can talk with WDMCS district staff about kindergarten registration, the WDMCS district preschool programs coordinator, preschool directors and teachers who participate in SVPP, and the WDMCS district nutrition department. Here are some photos of the fun times had at Preschool Palooza in past years:

Mythbusting Monday: National School Bus Safety Week

Pre teen boy getting on school busWDMCS bus drivers safely transport about 3,600 students each day. Each school year, they drive more than 700,000 miles. To celebrate these drivers and National School Bus Safety Week, Oct. 19-23, we decided to bust some myths about buses and the West Des Moines Community Schools Transportation Department.

  • Myth: School buses are yellow to make them more visible.
    • This myth is TRUE.
    • School buses must, by law, be painted “National School Bus Glossy Yellow.” The color was originally chosen in 1939, during a conference that established national standards for school buses and school bus safety. It was the easiest color to see, especially in the hours when buses are on the road. Originally called “National School Bus Chrome,” the yellow is also easy to see in peripheral vision.
  • Myth: School buses are not safe without seat belts.
    • This myth is FALSE.
    • School buses are designed as the safest way to transport children. The design, and the way buses protect passengers, is totally different from a car’s design. School buses use what is called “passive restraint.” This means that all a child must do to be protected is remain seated.
    • The American School Bus Council explains it this way: “School bus passengers are protected like eggs in a carton — compartmentalized, and surrounded with padding and structural integrity to secure the entire container.” The entire bus is designed to be safe and protect all the passengers at once, so seat belts can be more of a hazard or distraction than a safety measure.
  • Myth: Other drivers must stop when school bus lights flash.
    • This myth is TRUE.
    • The first step to knowing what to do when you meet a bus on the road is understanding what the bus and its lights are telling you. This content is a simple breakdown of Iowa code 321.372, known as “Keep Aware Driving — Youth Need School Safety Act.”
    • What do the lights mean?
      • The yellow lights are a warning; the red lights should be treated as a stop light. Iowa law says a bus driver must turn on the yellow/amber flashing lights before they stop. They must turn on the yellow lights within specific distances, depending on speed limits in the area.
      • The driver turns on the red flashing lights when they have brought the bus to a full stop. They will also extend the stop arm. This is the point when students will enter or exit the bus.
    • What should a driver do?
      • If you meet a bus with flashing yellow lights (a warning), slow to 20 mph or less. Bring your vehicle to a complete stop when the red lights flash and the stop arm extends. Proceed with caution only after the stop arm is retracted.
      • NEVER try to “beat the bus.” Drivers must not pass school buses when the red or yellow lights are flashing. Bring vehicles to a complete stop 15 feet or more away from the bus.
Examples of what to do when you meet a bus on a two- or three-lane highway. (Image source: Iowa DOT)

Examples of what to do when you meet a bus on a two- or three-lane highway. (Image source: Iowa DOT)

There is one exception to these rules: If you meet a bus on a street where there are two or more lanes in each direction, you do not need to stop if you are traveling in the opposite direction from the bus.

Examples of what to do when you meet a bus on a four-lane highway. (Image source: Iowa DOT)

Examples of what to do when you meet a bus on a four-lane highway. (Image source: Iowa DOT)

Here are some more quick reminders for drivers and for students.

American School Bus Council
National Education Association
Mental Floss
Iowa Legislation: Code 321.372
Iowa Department of Transportation

Monthly Motivation: Happy Handwashing Day!

GlobalHandwashingDay2015Happy Global Handwashing Day! Global Handwashing Day is celebrated annually on Oct. 15. The first Global Handwashing Day was held in 2008, when over 120 million children around the world washed their hands with soap in more than 70 countries. This year’s theme is Raise a Hand for Hygiene, and events are being held in countries all over the world including Argentina, Kenya, and Pakistan.

The day serves to increase awareness and understanding of the importance of washing your hands with soap (that’s the extra important part). Handwashing with soap is an fast, inexpensive way to prevent disease and save lives. The day is used to design, test, and replicate creative ways to encourage with-soap handwashing!

To make handwashing a little more exciting, you can watch this TED Talk video from Joe Smith, lawyer and “powerful advocate for proper paper towel use,” He teaches viewers how to end up with completely dry hands without overusing paper towels.

CE Today: October 7 — Chicago “Cubs” Win Game Two of the 1882 “World’s Series”

In honor of the Chicago Cubs’ appearance at the National League Wild Card game tonight, we decided to take a look back at their history for the CE Today post.


The 1882 Chicago White Stockings team photo. (Photo source:

Back in 1882, when they were known as the Chicago White Stockings, the now-Cubs earned their first postseason win on Oct. 7, playing against the Cincinnati Red Stockings (now the Reds). The two teams were competing in a predecessor to the World Series.

Major League Baseball lists 1903 as the first year of the World Series, but before the championships of today, there was the Championship of the United States, also known as the World’s Championship Series. The top teams from the Major League Baseball leagues would play each other in the series, just like today, but in 1882, the two leagues were the National League and the American Association.


The “Back to the Future” paper that seems to predict the Cubs winning the 2015 World Series.

The Chicago White Stockings were down one game after the Red Stockings’ Oct. 6 win, but they managed to even the series with their 2-0 victory on Oct. 7.

The Cubs have not won the Series since 1908, but this is their year, according to one source: Marty McFly and the “Back to the Future” movies. Cubs fans are certainly hoping history repeats itself.

CE Value: Respect — Firefighters and Fire Prevention Week

For the new CE Value blog posts, WDMCS Community Education will share news about our six values: people focus, respect, relevance, enrichment, fun, and team unity. This month, we wanted to highlight respect.

It is Fire Prevention Week, from Oct. 4-10 this year. The theme this year is,“Hear the Beep Where You Sleep. Every Bedroom Needs a Working Smoke Alarm.” According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), working smoke alarms cut the chance of dying in a fire in half.

In case of a fire, children need to know they can trust firefighters. Some children may find firefighters and their equipment intimidating, so it is important to remind them that firefighters are community helpers. Young children may benefit from this NFPA lesson, and these videos featuring Sparky the Fire Dog.

Firefighters have visited WDMCS schools to talk about fire safety and what to do in an emergency. In other places in the country, they have spent the summer fighting wildfires. Teach your children about fire safety and and all the great things firefighters do this week!

CE Question: What’s the most important manner?

knife-and-forkA quick search on the Internet or a chat with friends and family will reveal one thing about etiquette today: It is changing. While being polite is just as important as ever, “polite” means different things to different people. Social rules are evolving at warp speed, thanks to social media and our ever-changing culture. With that in mind, this month’s CE Question is two-fold: 1. What is the “manner” you remember most from your childhood? and 2. Is it one you will pass on to your kids?

Let us know on Facebook and Twitter! We’re ready for an etiquette lesson.